As you've seen in my previous post, I was very disappointed that I was unable to go to Quebec City- a trip I had been planning for months. Instead of wallowing in self pity and disappointment, I decided to go on a last minute day trip to Hartford, which was a city I had been thinking about touring for a while now but never had the time. I bought the bus tickets at noon on Saturday and on 5:30am Sunday morning I was on my way to Connecticut.
Upon doing some research of the city, I knew that Saturday would have been a better day to go since more activities would have been open, but as I had no other option I decided to make the best of it. Overall, I really enjoyed myself in Hartford- a lot more than I expected. I originally thought I would run out of things to do and would have to read in a coffee shop to kill time so I brought a book along. But instead, I discovered that the 3 museums I visited were so much more interesting than I had expected! In hindsight I wish I had bought a later return bus ticket than my 4pm because towards the end of my day I had to start rushing in order to make the bus time.
How to Get There- I usually travel on Megabus since that was the bus company I was familiar with back in Texas, but since Megabus doesn't go to Hartford I had to look for other options. The Amtrak trains were my first choice since it's faster than a bus, but the tickets turned out to be way too expensive ($60 one way!). So in order to take the best advantage of the bus times and the ticket prices, I bought a one way ticket to Hartford from Port Authority from Greyhound Bus Lines ($17) and a one way returning ticket from Peter Pan Buses ($17). Both buses had two stops before reaching the destination I needed, but Greyhound was significantly better than Peter Pan and now I know to prioritize that company over others.
Due to the timing of the bus schedule, it was either arrive in Hartford at 8:30am or 11am when half the day would be over, so I chose the earlier arrival which meant that I would have around an hour to kill before the museums opened. I found this adorable coffee shop in downtown Hartford and ordered myself a raspberry mocha and a banana nut muffin. While the coffee and food was nothing too special, I loved the sunny and quiet vibe. It was the perfect place to read! It was also located a convenient 6 minute walk away from the bus station and a short walk away from my next destination.
I can imagine this park being beautiful in the spring or fall time, but since it was winter (and freezing), the lake was frozen over and the trees were leafless. It was still a peaceful environment and I was able to get a good view of the State Capitol Building and the surrounding downtown skyline. Unfortunately, I couldn't wander around the park for too long because pretty soon it felt like my fingers were about to freeze off.
Mark Twain House
I loved my 11th grade American English class and kept most of the required books we read throughout the year. One of that year's standout books was Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which instead of being a sequel to Twain's other novel, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, actually became commentary on racism in America. Since reading the book (I also really enjoyed The Prince and the Pauper), I've been fascinated with the author whose real name is Samuel Clemens. Upon choosing Hartford as my day trip destination, I was most looking forward to touring Twain's home and finding out more about his life. This was actually the home where he wrote Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and I imagined him writing furiously at his little desk in his billiards room (he was forced to write in there as his original office was turned into a school room for his 3 daughters). In addition to viewing him as an author, I learned so much about his marriage to his wife whom he met through her brother and fell in love with at first sight and his 3 daughters, only one of whom outlived him. Located in the affluent Nook Farm neighborhood, this was the first house Twain built for his family and the family lived there until they went bankrupt and was forced to move to Europe. Visitors are only able to view the home through scheduled tours, which are led by a trained and highly informative tour guide and last about 1 hour. The guide told us that about 85% of the furniture and items in the house actually belonged to Twain and the remaining items are from his time period. Sadly, no photos are allowed in the interior of the house, so you'll have to go there yourself to experience the magic that is Mark Twain. Don't forget to leave time for the informational movie and the exhibits that are located in the adjacent visitor's center.
Harriet Beecher Stowe House
Next door to the Mark Twain House is another author, Harriet Beecher Stowe's home (yes the 2 authors were neighbors). Stowe wrote the famous novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, which went on to become the 2nd most popular book of its time (only exceeded in popularity by the Bible). The book is fiery rebuke against slavery in the US and was written to motivate Americans to rethink their opinions on the topic of slavery. Thousands of UK women ended up signing petitions against slavery and sending volumes of their signatures to Stowe (pictured below). Stowe was inspired to write the book after being traumatized when she accidentally saw a slave auction while visiting a friend in Kentucky and witnessed a slave mother forcefully separated from her child. Stowe's feelings against slavery was magnified when she lost her own child a few years later and began to empathize with what the slave mother's must have been feeling. Uncle Tom's Cabin was a revolutionary book of its time, not only because of its strong commentary on slavery, but also because it was written by a woman (women at the time didn't have many rights). It was actually Stowe's husband, whom she met at a literary club, that encouraged her to pursue her passion for writing and to continue writing her book. Stowe lived in this house towards the end of her life. The House can also only be toured with an official tour guide and also lasts at least 1 hour. Where this tour differed from the Mark Twain one, is that there was much more emphasis on the current events and social issues instead of Stowe's life in the home. The tour starts out in a discussion room and the guide asks a lot of thought provoking questions. Bonus- if you tour both the Mark Twain House and the Harriet Beecher Stowe House on the same day, you can get a $3 discount on the second house tour. Pictures inside the house are allowed!
Make sure you have lots of time here because the museum is bigger than you think. This was around the time I started to feel rushed due to the fact that I still had to eat lunch and walk back to the bus station, so I was unable to explore a vast majority of the museum. Although it is named Athenaeum (and there is a tiny researchers only library inside), Wadsworth is actually mainly an art museum containing all types of art from many different periods. From my brief tour, I saw Monet Water Lily paintings, modern art (Andy Warhol), and even odd sculptures. It reminded me of a mini Met Museum! If you enjoy wandering museums by yourself and getting lost among amazing artwork, I would recommend checking this one out. Admission is $22, but if you have a student ID admission is only $5.
Bear's Smokehouse Barbecue
This bbq gem is located behind the Wadsworth Athenaeum and is DELICIOUS. Like many bbq places, you stand in a line to order and your food is prepared immediately and ready right when you reach the end of the line to pay, Coming from Texas, I have high standards when it comes to bbq so while I felt like the meat wasn't the best I had ever had, I thought that the food was overall very yummy and menu very creative. I ordered a brisket sandwich and fried mac and cheese balls that were actually infused with pieces of brisket.
Have you guys done solo day trips before? Where have you gone?